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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Doing Nothing, or Nothing Doing?

God asked Moses to lead his people out of slavery. Elijah was to live on Mt. Carmel for a time, relying on birds to bring him food. Teresa of Avila had the honor of founding a new Carmelite order, and Therese of Lisieux was called to join it and attain great humility and holiness at a very youthful age.

In my moments of enthusiasm, it is easy to want to mirror these great people who spent their lives honoring God. It is easy to think I love God greatly, and I want my life to reflect the greatness of His love. Then God hears "great," and evidently the words "great with child" come to His mind. And sometimes I am tempted to wonder, "is this all there is, Lord? Is this all You had in mind for me?"

My Charming and Patient Husband has a quote on his blog, "I've got the will, Lord, if you've got the toe." It's a line from a country western song about faith, and it in fact reminds me a bit of St. Therese, when she said she yearned to be the Lord's ball, His play thing.

But when it comes right down to it, it's a difficult attitude to follow through with. It seems easy, when full of joy in God's love, to offer Him everything. "Take me, use me as You see fit. You tell me what to do, and I'll do it." We envision, when we say this, that He will want to make of us great apologists, social reformers, or hermits. We anticipate big sacrifices that demonstrate the size of our love, our faith, and our importance to the God we are sure needs us as much as we need Him.

It isn't so easy, though, when His answer doesn't reflect our self-importance. "Oh, my child, I am so happy to hear you say that," He answers. "Here, sit down."

Ooh, He's listening, I think. I sit down. "Yes, Lord? I'm ready." I hear nothing else. And I sit there, waiting, for a long time -- all the while thinking that He hasn't finished His instructions, or that for some reason I've stopped being able to hear Him.

Until finally I realize that maybe I just don't understand His ways.

This pregnancy has been like that. In a literal sense. I've had to slow way down, because every time I try to maintain even a normal level of activity, the contractions start. Then, Monday came. I had done nothing but sit for two days, and heavy contractions began. The were somewhat regular at times, and they were painful. All the others had felt like pressure, maybe discomfort, but these contractions hurt. So I called the doctor, who instructed me to go to the hospital and get checked. The end result was that I was a little bit dehydrated, and with a lot of fluid and rest, the contractions waned back to the normal sporadic Braxton Hicks (practice) contractions. My parting instruction was to take it easier.

Easier than doing nothing but sitting around all day?

Lie down more, they said. Drink more water, and do nothing. Let Hubbie make the dinner. (He already does.) Yesterday, at my regular appointment, the doctor said much the same. Slow down even more, and do a lot of lying around.

And as I was coming home from this appointment, something occurred to me. I've spent my life feeling guilty for being a Mary instead of a Martha. Martha's the one accomplishing things. Martha's the one serving Jesus dinner. And when I've felt guilty enough, in the past, I've hastened into a whirlwind of activity, usually accompanied by the same sort of griping that Martha engaged in.

I've wanted to do God's will, but first I've wanted to be able to instruct Him in what it is; or at least to be ensured of understanding it before having to follow through. But it seems that He wants me to cool my heels and change my priorities. It seems that He wants me to bustle less and listen more. It seems that He wants me to be still.

At some point, when I say "I will do what you tell me, Lord," I guess it comes time to acknowledge that I have to mean it unconditionally, even when I don't understand.